Sophie Martin (foreground) adds to the pile of clothing her third grade class at Franklin Elementary School in Vanderbilt donated to The Children’s Closet in Uniontown. Pictured behind Martin are Abby Zuzak, Grayson Smolenski, Wesley Hall, Lindsay Wystepek and Katie Holchin (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)
By Mark Hofmann
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — A newly-formed organization has opened its doors to help local families with babies and toddlers in need of clothing.
The Children’s Closet was established through the Ladies of Charity, which is made up of members from the four Roman Catholic churches in Uniontown — St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph, St. Mary and St. Therese.
Bobbi Skovera, president of the Ladies of Charity, said they have been working with county agencies like Behavioral Health and Children and Youth Services to provide children clothing for families in need for the past 10 years.
However, Skovera said, they became overwhelmed with donated items and decided to open their doors to all families in need of children’s clothing.
The Children’s Closet, which will open in the beginning of December at the former St. Mary school in Uniontown, has clothes that range in size from newborn to 5T. Skovera said they chose to focus on those sizes because many schools have similar programs in place to help school-aged children in need.
“But what about their younger brothers and sister?” Skovera asked.
Anyone coming to receive the free clothing can tell volunteers what sizes they need, and will receive a package containing those sizes. Those coming to The Children’s Closet must also wear a mask.
“In the spirit of Saint Vincent DePaul, St. Louise De Marillac and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, we give thanks for their example and influence in our lives as we continue in their footsteps,” Skovera said.
While Skovera said they have been getting the word out by contacting county agencies and school districts, they still need people to spread the word about the program.
Clothing donations are welcome, as are volunteers, she said. Those wishing to offer assistance of any kind can come in during regular hours of operation.
Recently, a third-grade class rallied together to donate hundreds of items of clothing to children in need.
“In my 18 years of teaching, I realized there’s more to teach students than reading and math,” said Beth Morgan, a teacher at Franklin Elementary School in Vanderbilt.
Every year, Morgan has her students take part in a project focused on giving back. Past classes have gathered donations for organizations like Operation Shoe Box, American Red Cross and Toys for Tots; they also collected to help tornado victims, and sent Halloween cards to children at St. Jude’s Hospital.
This year, Morgan chose The Children’s Closet.
The Children’s Closet will officially open in early December as a place where those in need can get free clothing for children in sizes from newborn to 5T.
“It’s very important to teach them how to help others in need and give back to our community,” Morgan said.
And her class’ generosity did not disappoint.
“I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received from the families, the community. I even had students bring in change from piggy banks from chores,” she said.
In total, the class donated over 300 items of clothing for boys and girls, and with the money donated, Morgan was able to buy additional clothes for The Children’s Closet.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m teaching them something outside of a text book’,” she said. “It’s very heartwarming.”
Student Saide Perry donated $11 from both chores and collecting change around the house. She said she found a lot of change in her dad’s car.
“It makes me feel good because I know I’m going to help give young kids clothes,” Perry said.
Student Grayson Smolenski said having the opportunity to donate made him feel good, too.
“I learned to appreciate what I got because there’s so many children in need,” he said.
“Because of donating, we are giving children some clothes to wear,” said student Sophie Martin. “It made me really happy.”
The students all agreed they’d like to donate again.
“This is just something I hope I can instill in them at a young age on how to be a good citizen and help others,” Morgan said.
The entire class and their parents made an evening trip to The Children’s Closet to present their donations. Morgan said she wanted the students to see where the clothing was going, believing it would reinforce her monthly class motto of kids helping kids.
The lesson worked.
“After Beth came in with those children, oh my gosh, those kids were so excited,” Skovera said. “The kids were bouncing in the air with the gratification from they got from giving.”
Mark Hoffmann is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard. Readers may email him at [email protected]. Helping the Helpers is a cooperative effort between the Pennsylvania Capital-Star and the Uniontown Herald-Standard.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.